ST. PAUL — Health care affordability, taxes and access to meat processing facilities were top priorities as Minnesota farmers spoke with state lawmakers and Walz administration officials on Thursday, Feb. 13.

The Minnesota Farmers Union held its annual lobby day at the Capitol and members pressed elected officials to keep farmers in mind as they launched into the 2020 legislative session.

They asked for more affordable health care options or a state-run buy-in option and for additional mental health care options. They raised concerns about backlogs at the state's meat processing facilities, which caused significant financial losses for poultry, hog and cattle farmers left without many options on where to take their animals.

And they asked for relief from a state tax loophole that required farmers to pay income taxes for the financial gain they saw after trading in equipment in 2018. Legislative leaders and the governor have said they plan to fix the loophole and aim to cover the costs to farmers this year.

"As a nurse, I see patients go home every single day that are not ready to home, that aren't able to afford to stay in a transitional or suite bed unit to care the care an rehab that they need," Sarah Hill, a Farmers Union leader and nurse from Waubun, said. "We need to advocate for farmers in rural communities and make sure that we have adequate health care and mental health care for them."

Linda Larson, said she wanted the Legislature to act to expand broadband in the state. She said she didn't have coverage at her home in Rosemount and had to install a landline to access the internet. Larson said she'd heard similar concerns from neighbors.

Farmers also thanked state leaders for their work in supporting agriculture by funding supports and additional resources for farmers and by pushing biofuels at the state and federal level.

Gov. Tim Walz, Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and legislative leaders met with farmers and said they hoped to work with them to resolve their concerns this year.

"Around ag groups, they do care about commodity prices, they do care about trade, but I tell you, the thing that keeps coming back is affordable health care and holistic," Walz told reporters after his meeting with the group. "There is still a need to have a discussion around health care and rolling back Medicare and Medicaid is certainly not the answer."